Join Chris Croft for an in-depth discussion in this video Getting it in writing, part of Project Management Simplified.
- The final part of step one of my 12 step process, defining your project, is to get that project definition in writing. Very important to get it written down. If you have a verbal agreement with your customer, then the chances are you'll have a couple of problems. One is that they will add more to your project during. So what they'll do is you'll have scope creep, they'll keep saying, "Can you just do one more thing? Can we add this in? Can you do it quicker? Can you do it cheaper?" and they'll mess you around. If you've got it written down, you can say, "Well, if you want to add those extra things, that's fine, "but it'll cost you more money." The other problem you'll have is after you finish they'll complain about what you've delivered.
They'll say, "Well, that's not what we wanted." And you'll be saying, "Well, yes it was a year ago. "Do you remember we talked about it and agreed it?" And they'll say, "Well, I don't remember that." But if you've got it in writing, you can go back to what was agreed. And remember that a year later, when you finish your project, there may even be different people involved by then. So you may be dealing with somebody who wasn't even at that initial meeting. So it's absolutely vital to get it written down in some way. So get it defined to avoid problems during the project and afterwards. And don't be tempted to avoid this. What people sometimes do is they think, "Well, it's kind of safer if I just keep it all a bit vague, because then if I don't quite deliver it'll be okay." But if you keep your project vague, you will definitely fail.
Whatever you deliver, they won't be happy with. If you define it, it's a bit scary, but at least you've got a chance of succeeding. And, of course, you will succeed because you'll have done all the planning that we're going to look at on this course. So don't be tempted to avoid getting it in writing. It's actually the only way that you can succeed. And don't be tempted to say, "Maybe I'll do it." Sometimes we're asked to do impossible projects and we say to our boss or to a big customer, "I'll see what I can do, I'll do the best I can." But, of course, if you say that to them, what they hear is, "Yes." So never say "maybe" or "I'll try," because they will hear, "Yes." You've got to either say, "yes" or "no." The good news, by the way, if you're struggling to say "no" to your boss, is planning makes you stronger.
So if you've actually got a plan, you can say to them, "I can't do it and this is why." If you just say, "Ooh, I don't think I can do that," you just sound weak and negative. But if you've actually got, say a Gantt chart, that you can point to, you can say, "Here's my Gantt chart "and as you can see, I need longer than that." So never say "maybe," it's got to be a "yes" or a "no" at the start based on planning. So get it all written down. We're probably not talking here about some sort of scroll that everybody has to sign with a big pen.
Probably what will happen is after the kickoff meeting, you'll email everyone and say, "Just to confirm, "we've reduced the deliverables ever so slightly "because we don't have enough money "and we're going to take a couple of months longer "than originally planned," just to confirm everybody's happy with that. And then, in a year's time when you deliver it and they say, "Where are those extra bits?" You can say, "Well, do you remember we agreed "to miss that out and here's the email." So what I want you to do is just think about the projects you're doing at the moment. Do you have everything nailed down in writing? And even if you're well into the project, it's never too late to send out a mail just confirming, "This is where we're at, this is what's "going to happen next, and is everybody happy?" And you can say in the email, "If I don't hear from you, "I'm going to assume you're happy." So that's something I want you to do right now.
Just check that you've got your project properly nailed down in writing.
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- Define the project scope.
- Identify how to list tasks.
- Estimate costs and time.
- Assess how to plan for risk.
- Determine how to stay on budget.